On May 16th, we discussed chapter 35, "Make Yourself Strong and Resourceful," which is based on the following Ayas:
Sura 16; Ayas 75-76:
God gives an example - someone enslaved, owned by another, has no power over anything, and someone else whom We have given good resources from ourselves and who spends from it at will, both privately and publicly. Are these two equal? Praise and thanks be to God: but most of them do not understand it.
And God gives the example of two men - one of them dumb, powerless, and a burden on his master: to whichever task is he directed he brings no good.
Can such a one be considered the equal of someone who commands justice and is on a firm path?
The ideas expressed in these ayas convey an important evolution in religious thought: seclusion and constant praying without doing much else, thought of as a mark of true religiosity/piousness throughout history, isn’t what God meant. Those who understand where their resourcefulness comes from, work to use it to improve the future of humanity, and command justice are the ones who are on the right path and are truly pious. This is where it becomes very important how we understand and interpret religion or what God is looking to say to us. If we interpret it in a way where we are bogged down by following others’ (“authoritative”) interpretations involving endless rules and regulations as to how we are to behave, that interpretation leads to constriction and lack of productivity. If we focus on the spirit of what God is looking to explain to us and dig deep within ourselves, then we start to focus on our own resourcefulness and to see how we can join the forces of our fellow human beings who have made and continue to make this world a better place for all. There are, of course, plenty of negative examples stemming from narrow-minded interpretations, but that is precisely why we are asked to first work to understand what the ayas say, then be generous in all our dealings, professional or private, and command justice. On the face of it, it seems that these ayas also suggest that God gives someone less than others, but if we focus on His repeatedly telling us that He does not deal unjustly with a single human being, then we must see that the majority of people in this world are given the resources and that the majority’s job is to improve the conditions of the minority. The truly enlightened understand the spirit of His message and are constantly finding ways to use their resources, everyone according to his or her capacity.
Some of the thoughts that came to mind to those present during this class include the notion that we can be enslaved by our own mind patterns. A good number of people want to feel accepted by their society (through cultural conditioning) and therefore feel that permission has to be granted for them to do anything. Respect and love are important but value of our life is also important. We need to do things to make life better for us and others and we must learn to strengthen ourselves so that we don’t run away from life’s challenges. A successful person is one who demands justice and is on a firm path. People are not using their tremendous potential to change things. It is not enough to pray - we must pray and act. What is happening in our lives is the direct result of what we are thinking. Everybody should spend at least a year trying and really looking to understand the words of prayer. It seems as though Islamic societies tend to discuss social rules that restrict people. There seems to be a general narrowness of focus among Islamic societies and a focus on the wrong things. We rarely hear an imam say to a woman that learning is mandated to all by Islam, but we hear them all too often say that a woman should cover herself. An interpretation of Islam that doesn’t inspire us to uplift people in whatever capacity we can must be the wrong one because it contradicts pages and pages of Quran that focus on doing good.
The exercise developed by Dr. Abdulhameed for this chapter states:
Look up the names of Prophet Muhammad. These are the attributes of strength for which he was known.
a) Identify three of these attributes you already possess. What can you do to manifest these traits consistently so that people will know you through them? Write down your answer to this question in your journal.
b) Identify three other of these attributes that you would like to develop. In what ways can you change your behavior to manifest these attributes? Write down the answer to this question in your journal.
Summary by Alma Subasic